The main aim was to extend the educational resources of Rishi Valley School into the neighbouring impoverished countryside.
A second objective was to regenerate the landscape in this drought-prone district consisting of degraded forests, denuded hills and small valleys.
Lastly, a village-based educational system was promoted with the hope that in due course village schools would become the nucleus for the establishment and growth of village commons where fruitbearing trees, fodder and fuel would be grown, which would lead to the regeneration of rural life.
The teaching materials developed at REC are making a significant and lasting contribution to the education of Telugu-speaking underprivileged children across Andhra Pradesh, and in the near future, we plan to develop materials in other languages also. The many distinct components of the REC programme are described below. These are funded to a large extent by voluntary organizations, the Central Government and donations from concerned individuals. (Please note: Donations lo Rishi Valley Rural Education curare are 100%, tax-deductible, under section 35AC of the Income Tax Act).
Rishivanam is a free day school for 120 children of the immediate neighbourhood. Health care, mid-day meals and clothes are provided free to all the children of the school. It is an experimental school, where students are taught in vertically grouped classes, with the help of innovative material; students are prepared for the class 7 examination of the Andhra Pradesh State Board. Academic training is supplemented by a rich programme in crafts, music, athletics and puppetry.
Satellite School Scheme: Sixteen one-room schools have been built upto now, several of them located in village commons. Rishivanam serves as the resource centre for these schools, and in turn, each satellite school is a resource centre for its village. Each school has one teacher and around 30 students of various ability groupings. In the evening, most or these schools double up as non-formal and supplementary schools catering to the needs of working and school going children. The Schools are involved in adult literacy, land reclamation schemes, reforestation, beekeeping, health, hygiene and family planning.
Teacher Training Programme: This was started in 1987 for local youth with school leaving certificates; these teachers would set up their own one-room schools or work in the satellite schools set up in the surround ding villages by REC. The scope of this programme has been greatly expanded. We have trained hundreds of teachers in various districts and tribal areas of Andhra Pradesh. The training scheme covers elementary education, the design and manufacture of low-cost teaching aids, crafts including textile printing, embroidery, puppet making, carpentry and bookbinding.
Curriculum Development: In consultation with well-known educationists and writers, and based on the teaching methods of the satellite schools, we have developed a comprehensive educational package for formal and non-formal elementary schools. It covers Telugu, Mathematics and Environmental Studies. This 'School in a Box' contains almost 1500 illustrated study cards, large-sized letters made of rubber, handwriting templates, puppets, various other teaching aids and toys, and teachers' manuals. The kit is made available at a low price. It is being used by several voluntary organizations and government agencies in-almost 1000 small schools across Andhra Pradesh.
Health and Nutrition Programme: The resident medical officer runs a free clinic at Rishivanam and two other rural schools, where on an average he treats 120 patients per day. We provide free mid-day meals for half of the students who attend our rural schools. With adhoc funding, we have also managed to provide a minimal but nutritious breakfast drink of ragi malt and jaggery for the remaining students.
Setting up new Schools:
The rural education programme is replicable, and is becoming a model for established educational institutions that wish to extend their resources to the villages. Several NGO groups have sent teams to the campus to study our work with a view to transferring the structure and the curriculum to their localities. We have regularly accepted the responsibility, when asked, to oversee the successful implementation of our scheme in several areas of Andhra Pradesh.
The Estate is engaged in conducting experiments in sustainable agriculture. Improved methods of organic agriculture, construction of scientifically designed compost pits, mulching, vermiculture and small scale water conservation schemes are areas where expertise is being developed.
The Estate is involved in intensive afforestation work. In the past eight years over one lakh trees have been planted in about one hundred and fifty acres of degraded hill slopes. Extended soil and moisture conservation programmes have also been started outside the Rishi Valley campus, funded by a grant from the National Wasteland Development Board.
The Rishi Valley Dairy meets the milk requirements of the school. It is considered one of the finest in Andhra Pradesh and has won several prizes. Over the years, it has participated actively along with the Animal Husbandry Department of the Government of Andhra Pradesh in improving the livestock in the neighbourhood.